Real Contact

I’m reading Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. It’s a fantastically strange novel, almost like a collection of short stories that span through a few decades and show the connections between a huge cast of characters that hardly seem like they should be related and yet are.

I don’t want to spoil it for those who’ve never read it, so I’ll just say that there’s a portion in it that deals with characters living a decade or so in the future, a time at which it seems that texting is the primary method of communicating with people. One of the characters seems profoundly uncomfortable with real speech and much prefers the cleanliness of the short messages we sent to each other via text, or T as it’s called by then. This disturbed me profoundly and I’m having a hard time getting through this section. The notion of real contact between people being something that’s disappearing is something I dislike. I also don’t really believe it’s true.

As a child of the generation that has grown up with increasingly small cellphones, increasingly faster internet and the increasing ubiquity of social networking in our lives, I still don’t believe that the near future contains the loss of real speech or contact between people. In my world, at least, social networking is another means of communication, true, but it’s far from being the only one or the most preferred one. I know few people who spend more time communicating with friends online than face to face.

Thoughts? Comments? Opinions?


4 thoughts on “Real Contact

  1. I rarely text, but then again, I’m older than most texters.

    I imagine Egan is not trying to make any kind of prediction or comment on our culture other than the fact that we rely too much on this form of communication and that it dilutes the quality of our sharing. Not infrequently dystopic writers use the technique of exaggeration to compell us to look at our behavior in new ways. I think of it more as literary device than any prophesy about where we are are literally headed.

    Hope this makes sense. Great question to raise via this post, however. I imagine it will generate lots of discussion.

    Happy Holidays———–


  2. Erin M says:

    Heh. I do spend more time communicating with most of my friends online than face-to-face.

    Mostly it’s via blog/comments and e-mail, though. I’m not much of a social networker otherwise (e.g. I don’t use Facebook or Twitter). I don’t text on my phone much, either. But ten years from now, who knows?

    I’ve only read bits of novels that are written (partly or largely) in the text/twitter message format; I find them really hard to follow and hard to get into, character-wise. (Though it doesn’t sound like that’s quite how the book you’re reading is written . . ?)

    Interesting topic. I’m curious to see what does happen in the future in terms of communication between people.

    Happy Hanukkah; hope you’re enjoying the holidays!

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